Meniscus tear

What is a meniscus tear?

Meniscus is a C-shaped piece of cartilage in the knee joint. It acts as a cushion between the thigh bone and the shin bone. Each knee joint has two menisci, one on the left and one on the right. Although they are flexible, they can be torn.

Symptoms

Symptoms of a torn meniscus include:

  • Pain in your knee while walking or squatting
  • Locking of your knee joint that keeps it from moving normally
  • Swelling around your knee

Causes and risk factors

Twisting or overflexing your knee joint can cause a tear in the meniscus. Risk factors include:

  • Sports or other activities that require twisting or rotating your knee with a lot of force
  • Work that requires you to squat to lift heavy objects
  • Age, as your meniscal tissue breaks down

Treatment options

How your doctor decides to treat your meniscus tear will depend on how active you are, your age, and how severe the injury is.

Nonsurgical

A mild tear of the meniscus may be treated without surgery, using the R.I.C.E. method:

  • Rest your leg and avoid putting weight on it.
  • Ice your knee for 20 minutes, several times a day.
  • Compress your knee with a bandage or wrap.
  • Elevate your leg to a level above your heart.

You may also take anti-inflammatory medication to reduce pain and swelling.

Surgical

Treatment of more severe tears may require arthroscopic surgery. A tiny video camera and surgical tools are inserted into the knee joint, and the meniscus is repaired or trimmed.

Last reviewed: 
October 2019

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